Remembering boys of '92 who rattled the Kiwis
THE stories have gone down in Irish rugby folklore.
There were twee television promos (a cartoon leprechaun dancing across the screen to blaring diddley-eye music, chanting "The Irish are coming! The Irish are coming!"), the massed 'dog ate my homework' withdrawal excuses, the no-horse towns and the hammerings -- on and off the pitch.
The 20-year anniversary and the fact it can be clung to as an example of how the All Blacks are supposedly vulnerable first time up has seen Ireland's 1992 tour of New Zealand -- when a rankly amateur Irish outfit overcame a series of provincial pummellings to push the All Blacks to three points in the first Test -- get a bit of airplay this week.
That Ireland team-sheet contains a host of names that will be unfamiliar to many supporters.
The four starting debutants -- Kelvin Tremaine Leahy, Ronald Carey, Neville Furlong and Paul McCarthy -- went on to amass just 10 caps between them, but that day in Dunedin they and their team-mates were inspired and, helped by immaculately turned-out Aussie referee Sandy MacNeill, came excruciatingly close to a first win over their fabled opponents.
Suitably rattled and then excoriated by media and supporters, the New Zealand response was predictably ruthless -- a 59-6 destruction in windy Wellington the following week -- when Furlong, in his final act as an Ireland player, limped over for the first try after ripping his hamstring and then, as legend has it, taunted John Kirwan with "you can't even tackle a cripple" on his hobble back.
Ireland's current conditioning, skill and preparation levels bear no resemblance to the shoddiness indulged in the amateur era but, with the odds once again stacked heavily against them this Saturday, instilling the spirit of '92 would be good starting point.
May 30, 1992
15 Jim Staples
Brave, attack-minded full-back who bagged a great try and would have added considerably to his 26-cap haul had it not been for injury.
14 Ronnie Carey
Dungannon speedster on the verge of Irish rugby immortality when he looked like grabbing the winning try at the death.
13 Vincent Cunningham
Classy outside-centre from St Mary's, 'Vince the Prince' sliced through for two tries and was back in New Zealand with the Lions the following year.
12 Phil Danaher (capt)
Garryowen AIL-winner, who won his first cap at full-back in 1988, before becoming a hard-tackling mainstay of the Irish midfield.
11 Neville Furlong
A tall, powerful army man from UCG who, like Carey, made the trip through the absence of established wingers and was not capped again afterwards.
10 Peter Russell
Tidy, footballing out-half from Instonians who won only four caps, but controlled matters superbly in Dunedin.
9 Michael Bradley
Intelligent, physical presence was crucial behind an Irish pack that was generally on the back-foot when he won 40 caps between 1985 and 1995.
1 Nick Popplewell
Ireland's only world-class player, Popplewell relished playing the All Blacks, making his debut against New Zealand in 1989 and starring for the Lions in 1993.
2 Steve Smith
Giant Ballymena hooker in the Tommy Lawton mode, Smith emerged with great credit from a mighty battle with New Zealand captain Sean Fitzpatrick.
3 Paul McCarthy
A veritable baptism of fire for McCarthy, who won five caps and was part of the famous Munster win over the world-champion Wallabies later that same year.
4 Mick Galwey
Dropped more than any other player in the squad during his 11-year Ireland career, but had one of his best outings in Dunedin.
5 Paddy Johns
An Ulster warrior through the 1990s who had a remarkable win ratio of 70pc as well as becoming an excellent captain.
6 Kelvin Leahy
His only Ireland appearance, but the Wanderers flanker hit everything he could in black before being forced off with a busted shoulder.
7 Mick Fitzgibbon
Shannon stalwart who gained a lot of respect in New Zealand and is arguably the best pound-for-pound tackler to play for Ireland.
8 Brian Robinson
Athletic No 8 with a hard edge who was one of the first names on the team-sheet in the early 1990s before being forced to retire due to a knee injury.